30 Best Black Films of the Past 20 Years

Michael B. Jordan was a revelation.

12_years_a_slave_soundtrackHere’s a continuation of a Rotten Tomatoes list of the best black films since 2000.

#30 Loving (2016). A powerful, yet understated story about an interracial couple in Virginia when that was not legal in 16 states across the country.
#29 TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (2019) – I was looking forward to seeing this, yet I missed it. #28 BLINDSPOTTING (2018) – ditto. #27-#25. Don’t know.

#24 O.J.: Made in America. Ignoring the question of whether this is actually a movie – I saw it over several nights on ESPN – I think it was an important project. A lot of people thought the filmmakers would serve as apologists for Simpson. They were not. And thinking about it through today’s lens, it’s quite possible that if the cops who beat Rodney King in Los Angeles had been convicted, O.J. might have been as well.

#23 TANGERINE – I am not familiar.
#22 The Last Black Man in San Francisco. If linear storytelling is your thing, this will annoy or at least confuse you. But it was worthwhile.
#21 FRUITVALE STATION (2013) – I both wanted to see this movie with Michael B. Jordan, and was afraid to, knowing how the real story ended.
#20 Fences (2016) Denzel stars and directs this adaptation of the August Wilson play. The backyard scenes were a little “stagey” but it worked overall.

The lives of background singers

#19 20 Feet from Stardom. I LOVE this film! Though 13th has made a recent surge, it’s possible I’ve recommended this on FB more than any film on this list. And that was before niece Rebecca Jade was singing backup for Sheila E. and others.
#18 MUDBOUND (2017) This was an Oscar-nominated film, with Mary J. Blige up for two. It was virtually impossible for me to see unless I had Netflix. So I never did.

#17 Amazing Grace. A “found” documentary about Aretha Franklin in the church. Until I reread my review, I didn’t remember how oblivious some of the audience was.
#16 Sorry to Bother You. Mind-blowing. It was filmed in Oakland, CA during the summer of 2017 concurrently with Blindspotting.
#15 THE HATE U GIVE (2018) Another “I should see that” film.

#14 Hidden Figures (2017). It may not have been the “best” film of that year. But it was almost certainly the most enjoyable, one that I could watch again. And educational to boot.
#13 DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (2019) Another movie primarily released on Netflix, so I missed it.
#12 Creed (2015). I am shocked by how much I, and especially my wife, enjoyed this addition to the Rocky franchise. Michael B. Jordan was a revelation.

#11 I Am Not Your Negro (2017). Two things from my review. Someone wrote that the film is “important. And urgent. And almost certainly unlikely to be seen by the people who would benefit from it most.” And it’s sometimes rapid-fire delivery made me want to watch it again on DVD, so I could pause it and absorb the information.
#10 WIDOWS (2018) It is a heist movie, and after seeing the trailer, I was disinclined to see it.


#9 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013). Many white people of my acquaintance, including a lot of church folks, said that I really should see it. I don’t WANT to. Nope. They say, “But it has a local angle.” Don’t want to. As Rotten Tomatoes notes, “It’s far from comfortable viewing…”
#8 If Beale Street Could Talk. My wife and I loved the couple at the heart of the story.

#7 Selma. I’ve seen at least a half dozen movies on this list on the MLK holiday weekend, including this. I thought this was a fine film, although I spent a chunk of my review defending the film against criticism of its use of poetic license. And I love the song Glory.
#6 Moonlight. A very good film, but often quite sad.
#5 SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018) – I REALLY want to see this movie, still, and I probably will.

#4 GET OUT (2017) a horror/comedy film. Maybe one of these days.
#3 BlacKkKlansman (2018). I recall defending this film quite a bit on FB. The coda was devastating.
#2 US (2019) maybe I’ll see this, although the trailer was quite creepy.

#1 Black Panther. My friend ADD wrote this, which I quoted: “Millions of African-Americans and others… found in the… film an inspirational culture in which they could see themselves and their own history.” And it was, in part, the really cool Wakanda culture, that resonated so much.

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